From Cinderella’s perspective we get the story that she was made to do all the chores and her only friends were mice. This is pretty much the perspective overall of stepchildren worldwide. While the biological daughters were getting their hair done, poor Cinderella was slaving for this family.
When a couple gets married for the first time, boundaries aren’t really an issue. They are established together and little by little as life unfolds, they discover things about themselves and about each other and boundaries are set and discussed. So it is no wonder that we believe that the same process of the first marriage is exactly how you would begin a second marriage.
Not so at all. A second marriage comes with a whole cast of characters that you didn’t have in a first marriage. A second marriage often has children already in place, it also has ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, friends who are friends with your ex, and well, you get the picture. It is a serious misconception that you come into this marriage as a man and a woman getting ready to begin a life together. You come in as two camps trying to make a life together. It is a much harder proposition to make several people happy, rather than just please two people in love.
Boundaries must be set before the wedding. This is one of the pitfalls I see to second marriages. The boundaries are necessary or there will be a lot of presumptions, miscommunications, hurt feelings, and battles. Think about it. If you live in a house, it has clear land boundaries. Let’s say you have great neighbors. You guys BBQ out in the back yard, if you forget to take the trash out to the curb on trash day, if he notices, he hauls it out there for you, you guys like each other. One day your neighbor buys a new RV. Only it doesn’t fit in his carport, but if he removes your fence, he can park it in your yard because you have plenty of room! He neither asks you nor considers that you’d mind at all. He simply does it. You arrive home from work, your dog has run away, because the fence is down, and there is this big RV in your yard. Your neighbor looks shocked! How could you be mad? After all, he’s taken your trash out for years. Suddenly you have problems.
There is a saying that says: Good fences make good neighbors. This applies to second marriages. You are bringing two families together there must be boundaries or there will be battles. Those battles can increase and become a war in no time.
So what are some boundaries to consider discussing before you get married? Here are some basic questions to get you started but there are many, many more and it is wise to begin to get a list together.
Will children have their own rooms or will they share? Who will clean the room?
Are children allowed to play with each other’s things without permission?
If a child visits on weekends, will that child have special exemptions from the everyday household chores of the children who live in the home permanently?
Will the children be allowed to bring their pets from their other family home on visits?
Will the non-biological parent be allowed to discipline the children?
What does discipline look like to you?
What do children’s chores look like to you?
Are you allowed to open each other’s mail?
Are there certain things that are off limits? For example, can children come into your room and get your favorite lipstick, razor, blouse, watch?
How much input, into your new marriage, is allowed to be made by your former spouses?
Is a pet snake an acceptable family pet?
How will holidays be handled?
How much is too much to spend on clothing, video games, Christmas?
You can see how problems can arise quickly and escalate into pitting two camps against each other. Nothing is too petty to discuss at this point. It is no wonder we find Lady Tremaine angry when we meet her. I don’t believe any woman sets out to marry a man with children just to torment them and her.
Finally, a word of warning, do not put this off or think it’s going to work out on it’s own. It just isn’t. Also beware that if you are compromising your answers to get this marriage started, you will face the consequences later. It is much better to discuss and find out that although you love each other, this will not work, than it is to drag yourself and your family through another divorce.
if you are already married, it is never too late to sit down calmly, not during
a battle and strategize. You already know what the issues are, now it’s time to
lay them on the table and come to reasonable solutions.